Back in December, January and February, we ran an exclusive online competition here on magnersleague.com offering you the chance to kick for glory at Saturday’s Grand Final. Thousands of you entered but now only two remain.
When Munster and Leinster go head-to-head for the right to be crowned Magners League kings this weekend, a pair of fans from the two sides will be hoping they too can live the dream on the big stage.
Munster supporter Donal Horgan and Leinster compatriot Mark Delany will be competing against each other during the half-time interval in the last part of our Kick your way to the Grand Final competition in front of more than 26,000 people at Thomond Park.
And it’s not just glory that’s up for grabs either – the winner will receive a Munster or Leinster season ticket for the 2011/12 campaign, meaning Ronan O’Gara versus Johnny Sexton isn’t the only key kicking duel worth talking about.
Donal and Mark will kick once from directly in front of the posts on the 22 on Saturday; once from the 15-metre line to the left of the posts on the 22; and once from the 15-metre line to the right of the posts on the 22.
Two points will be awarded for a successful kick from in front; four points for a successful kick from to the left; and four points for a successful kick from to the right, with the winner being the kicker with the highest score.
"I’m definitely looking forward to some crowd involvement from the Leinster supporters," said Delany, who won the Leinster qualifier during the Round 22 clash with Glasgow Warriors at the RDS.
"In the last round, when I was kicking I went for a bit of a slow clap. Instead of going for the typical silence from the crowd, I went for some crowd participation. You don’t know if the crowd are watching or not so I really appreciated that last time.
"It wasn’t too nerve wracking to be honest. The fact that you start off directly in front of the posts makes it a lot easier. You’re only really expected to get one or two of your kicks instead of having to get all three so it shouldn’t be too bad."
Delany is clearly in pretty confident mood but he’s aware that kicking for goal on Munster soil will bring a whole new set of challenges. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not the sea of red that will await him that’ s worrying the 30-year-old ahead of Saturday’s showdown. Instead it’s the weather conditions as spring seems keen to take a break and the winds blow in across the UK and Ireland.
"Thomond Park is an awful lot bigger than the RDS with a bigger audience so we’ll have to see what the atmosphere’s like," added Delany.
"I’ve not been to Thomond before. The biggest concern I have is that it’s windy over here at the moment so I’m presuming it will be the same in Thomond.
"Because it’s got a very large grandstand but with smaller terraces at the end, I’d say the wind could have a huge impact. I’ll be more concerned about kicking into the wind because there’ll be no protection from behind the posts. That’s going to be a huge problem for both of us."
Delany received expert advice from Leinster fly-half Ian Madigan in a unique kicking master class back in April, while his opponent was given similar backing by Munster’s Australian playmaker Paul Warwick.
Both men were also treated to an inside view of their favourite team's playing facilities, with Kevin McLaughlin and David Wallace providing a unique insight into what takes place behind closed doors.
I had a brilliant time with both McLaughlin and Madigan," continued Delany.
"McLaughlin is a very outgoing guy and he was more than happy to talk on forever. Madigan’s a great guy also.
"The last time I kicked a ball it was very much about leaning the ball backwards towards you and kicking the open panel. Nowadays, you have the ball leaning forward and you kick through the stitches.
"I have a friend who plays rugby still and he introduced me to the basics of that before the master class and Madigan was teaching me the same stuff. The guy who had been helping me used to play under age for Munster so he’s definitely been helping the opposition!"